Pep Talk: Riverdale Episode 408, "In Treatment"

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Riverdale 408 In Treatment

"In Treatment" is sort of a jumping-on point for new viewers of RIVERDALE. It's a nice bit of catching up done without the crutch of flashbacks or "best of" moments.

The setup is that, given the multiple tragic events in recent days plus the stress of college acceptance -- and rejections -- coming in the mail, the students of Riverdale High could all use counseling. So Principle Honey (KERR SMITH) has asked the school guidance counselor to keep extended hours to meet the students' needs.

Enter Mrs. Burble (GINA TORRES), a licensed psychologist who, at first blush, seems to be the only adult in Riverdale other than Mary Andrews who does not have an ulterior motive or sinister agenda. (This being RIVERDALE of course means that she will be revealed somewhere down the line as being a serial-murdering Satanist vigilante witch.) She has all the major players' numbers, and gets our heroes to confront the issues that have been driving them.

First up is Betty (LILI REINHART), who has had it with the intrusion of her mom, Alice (MADCHEN AMICK), into her privacy. (I love how kids who live at home believe they have privacy.) The latest confrontation comes when Alice discovers Betty did not get accepted into a school she had applied to, and blames it on the birth control pills she found in a hidden compartment in her room. Betty makes a fair point here, stating that she and Jughead are sleeping in the same bed, so birth control is probably a good idea. I mean, they are connected by a shared half-brother, which makes them almost but not quite related. (Also, ew.) When Betty sits down with Mrs. Burble, Alice shows up unexpectedly, and it becomes a counseling session more for Alice than for Betty, as accusations are levied and more than one shocking revelation comes out.

Archie (KJ APA) is sent to the office after falling asleep during a physics class, because he hasn't been getting much rest with running the community center and conducting vigiliante activities. He has to speak in hypotheticals around Mrs. Burble, who reminds him that anything she learns about harmful or illegal activities would have to be reported -- but it's clear she knows the score here. She points out Archie's signs of addiction and acting out of grief and pain, which he acknowledges ultimately but does not change. She even encourages him to set up a call-in hotline for folks who need help that the police aren't helping, meaning Darkheart the Dourful will continue prowling the back-alleys of Riverdale. But to protect his mother (MOLLY RINGWALD), Archie decides to move out and live full-time at the community center.

Cheryl Blossom (MADELAINE PETSCH) gets sent to Burble's office by Honey himself, after he deems that an adult should take over the River Vixens because of all the trauma recent in Cheryl's life. Cheryl fights back, and Honey places the onus on Burble to decide if Cheryl is mentally fit to handle the job. Surprisingly enough, for someone who's supposed to report illegal, harmful activities, Burble takes the revelation of a taxidermied Jason Blossom in stride, comparing it to an urn of ashes. She also helps Cheryl determine whether or not the story of her absorbing her triplet brother, Julian, is true or not, and sets her on the path to determining what is really happening at Thistle House with the demonic doll, suggesting that someone is trying to drive Cheryl mad. But while deeming Cheryl to be merely grief-stricken and not crazy (which makes me wonder where she got her license), she still thinks Cheryl needs to take time to focus on herself for a while, and stands by Honey's decision to put the River Vixens into someone else's hands.

The battle between Hiram (MARK CONSUELOS) and Veronica (CAMILA MENDES) continues when Veronica gets the call that she has been accepted into Harvard. But upon discovering that she may not have done it on her own, her visit with Burble reveals to her that she's living out the classic Greek tragedy complex of Elektra and Agamemnon. The solution is simple, of course: to break the chains between herself and daddy, she has to kill him. Metaphorically speaking, of course. Veronica's choice is to beat him at business--specifcally his new business of bottling and distributing rum. Veronica, at 18, is going to sell liquor. (Oh wait, what am I thinking, she was doing that in the speakeasy already.)

Jughead (COLE SPROUSE), while still attending the private school for his writing, sees Burble when Mr. Dupont (MALCOLM STEWART) suggests Jughead return to Riverdale High, implying he's squandering the opportunity presented to him here by not turning in the writing assignments they had been given. His chat with Burble while awaiting his transcripts helps him see that his obsessions with conspiracies is blocking him from doing the thing he loves, the writing he should be producing. He learns to see his grandfather from his dad's perspective, and while we think he's going to lay low on the investigation into the notion that his grandfather was robbed of the Baxter Brothers franchise, Burble nonetheless encourages this after a fashion as well. The new, more focused Jughead then begins to produce pages as well as uncover more suspicious evidence about the students who were contemporaries of his grandfather -- and Mr. Dupont.

Almost forgotten in all this is the brief mention that everyone has received yet another delivery on their doorsteps of a VHS tape showing the front of their house. Again. Only this time, it's taken from closer to the front door. I can't imagine the time it would take for someone to stand in front of a house for 2 to 6 hours (the length of a standard VHS tape, depending on the SP, EP, or SLP option -- something for the younger generation to Google later), one house at a time, in full view, multiplied by the number of houses involved. It would almost have to be more than one person, working in cahoots. But most likely it'll be Charles, Betty's FBI brother with the "serial killer genes" in him.

This was a really taut episode, with an insightful character who manages to call out all the Riverdale gang on their various baloney, and still manage to get them to focus more on their self-destructive habits. We end with yet another peek into the near future, as we get closer to the "Death of Jughead" mystery. I was only mildly disappointed the episode didn't end with Harrison Nash Wells talking with The Monitor and being absorbed into a burst of white light as the skies above turned red.

Grade: 
4.5 / 5.0